It’s been a minute since I was a college student. And by “a minute”, what I mean is spring of 1996. But because the 90s were some of the most impacting years of my entire life—which is a book unto itself, sis—I remember that time very vividly. One of the things that I recall is that money was scarce. It was kind of crazy how my friends and I were able to make a twenty-dollar bill stretch over an entire week; two if we were really focused.
As far as my hair routine went, I must admit that it was only a real issue for me until the middle of my second year. I say that because one day, out of the blue, I let my late fiancé take a pair of clippers to my head. After that, I rocked some variation of a fade or a texturized TWA most of the time. But I do remember my freshman year requiring a little bit of financial finagling. So, if you’re currently in college, money is tight and you’re trying to figure out how to manage your curls when seeing your stylist every other week is totally out of the question, I’ve got a few tips to help to get you through.
Find an on-campus naturalista.
As I’m in currently in the process of at least trying to grow my hair out, my go-to protective style is medium-sized box braids. With the hair included, I usually pay somewhere around $200 (when people think of how many hours long ones take to install, that’s actually not half bad). I adore the Kenyan ladies who do it and they last for about eight weeks, so I’m happy. But I must admit that, what made me even happier, was when one of the girls in one of the dorms on campus gave me some for like forty or fifty bucks. What made me even happier than that was teaching myself how to cut hair and styling hair for some extra money too. It might seem like a bit of a risk, but there’s not a hint of hesitation in me when I say that you should look for an on-campus student-stylist. They’re good, they’re cheap and they can keep you lookin’ right without you needing to surrender all of your gas money.
Become a scarf-tying master.
Short of wearing a protective style, if you’ve got early morning classes and, more times than not, you wake up to your hair being a tangled mess, rather than frustrating yourself by trying to rake through it with a comb—hopefully, a wide-toothed one—or a Denman brush, wrap it up in a scarf instead. Even now, scarves are something I like to rock. They’re not only really stylish but if you and some of your girls go thrifting to look for some, you can find some beautiful prints that are really inexpensive. Just make sure, for the sake of keeping moisture in, that the material is silk or satin. Oh, and if you want some scarf-tying tips, check out some visual tutorials here, here, here, here and here.
Deep-condition and detangle—often.
No matter what you cut back on if two things are a total non-negotiable keep, it’s deep conditioning and detangling. In order to do both well, you’re going to need some product. Luckily, there are some conditioners and detanglers that are on the frugal side. Some that you may want to try are EDEN BodyWorks JojOba Monoi Deep Conditioner and Suave Professionals Natural Shea Butter & Pure Coconut Oil Cream Detangler Spray. While we’re on the topic of super-affordable products for curly hair, some other great ones include tgin Moist Collection for Natural Hair, Taliah Waajid Curly Curl Cream, Tresemme’ Between Washes Curl Revive Styling Foam, ApHogee Keratin and Green Tea Restructurizer and Curls Hair Gel Goddess Glaze Curl Gel.
Keep your ends trimmed.
Let’s all be honest with ourselves. One of the main reasons why our curly hair ends up not looking as, well, curly as we’d like it to is because sometimes, we like to skimp on getting a good trim. Now, when I say “trim”, I don’t mean going to a hater stylist who seems to be obsessed with chopping inches off. I mean making sure that your split ends and those knots that seem to appear out of nowhere are removed. If you should save up for anything, a professional trim is it. Or, you can go the semi-daring route, invest in a really good pair of shears and dust your own ends every six weeks or so.
Try some colored hair wax.
When I was in my 20s, I promise you that my hair turned a different color at least twice a month. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do; especially since I went the permanent route. But, in my defense, there was no colored hair wax back then. Luckily, you have that and it’s a great temporary way to go subtle or extreme in hues and give your hair definition without damaging it in the process. An affordable wax that works well on natural hair is Hair Paint Wax. And guess what? It only cost $7.
DIY hair oil.
Hair oil—so long as its light—gives our hair sheen and, if it has an essential oil added to it, it also gives it a wonderful-smelling scent too. Exploring all of the carrier oil and essential oil combos that you could try is an article all on its own. For now, I’ll say check out our throwback articles “The 10 Most Popular Oils for Curly Hair”, “Top 20 Essential Oils” and “Love Essential Oils? Here's How to Use Them on Curly Hair” to get a good idea of what will work best for you.
Master a solid nighttime routine.
It really is a hair-lifesaving truth—if you go to bed “right”, it’s harder to have a bad hair day. Listen, no matter how long a study session or party goes, make sure that your head does not hit your pillow until you’ve put a little moisturizer or leave-in conditioner on it (if you don’t have it in a protective style, that is), you braid it up or put it into a pineapple and your wrap it up. If you’d like to watch some videos to help you master a bedtime technique, go here, here or here.
Don’t be afraid to rock a blowout or twist-out.
I’ve shared before that I am one of those “4” women where heat is my friend. So, when my hair is not in a protective style, it’s not uncommon for me to have it in a blowout. The key is to deep-condition first, to make sure you use a heat protectant (a creamy type is best for thicker or kinkier textures) and a good dryer like a Revlon Salon One-Step Hair Dryer Brush. It’s another affordable option and your hair will be full and super fab as you’re going from class to class!
Want more back to school inspo? Check out our these back to school hairstyles that you can do in under 7 minutes!